An Improper Derailment: Chapter 28

Could Mary and Marshall possibly be saved?
ch 28 blog art
Catch up with Chapter 27…

Start the series from the beginning…

Marshall took a bite of the scrawny bird, relishing the taste of the tough meat. He knew that it wasn’t much, but it was all they had managed to catch.

He glanced over at Mary, who was eating her share of cactus with a determined look on her face.

He was proud of her. It was against her better nature to eat such meager fare, but she was learning to be realistic. Life was tough out here. She was a proper lady, and yet, once she got over her whining, as she was still want to do, she girded her proverbial loins and dug in.

They had to make do with what they had. Marshall had learned that lesson long ago, and now it was Mary’s turn. And she was doing an admirable job of it.

“So whats after this?” Mary gestured at the labyrinth of salt pillars around them.

“We keep heading west. We should notice the elevation changing soon, tomorrow or the next day. And then we’ll make it to Denver.”

Mary gnawed on a bone, trying to suck as much meat from it as she could.

“What’s in Denver?”

“It’s a city, Mary. It’ll have a Wells Fargo office. I should be able to send your grandfather a telegraph. Your family would have by now found out that your train got derailed, and you are missing.”

“I’m hardly missing. I’m right here,” she said with consternation.

“Yes, ma’am, you are.” Marshall chuckled at her fierceness. Her face was smudged with dirt, her clothes were torn and more dust colored than the smart blue they had originally been. But what mostly tickled his fancy was the way she gestured wildly with a bone in her hand. He knew her type, she would have been mortified to have ever eaten anything other than a cucumber sandwich wit her fingers.

But there she was, eyes full of fire, waving around a chewed up bone of some bird that she not only ate with her fingers, but caught, killed, and cooked as well.

Suddenly Marshall held up his hand, signally Mary to silence. He cocked his head, trying to focus in on whatever sound that had caught his attention.

They held still for a few moments, and then he kicked out their fire, and picked up Mary’s discarded coat.

“Time for us to go.”

“Now what?” Mary was on her feet and retrieving her cudgel.

“I’m afraid,” he whispered. “We’ve got company.

“What are you talking about? Company?”

From behind one of the pillars, Marshall saw a low sleek back rush past. He pulled Mary against the rock nest to him.


“But I though you said they wouldn’t follow us.” She covered her mouth, realizing that making noise would only alert the beasts to their location.

“Move,” Marshall directed.

It felt as if they played hide-and-seek, darting in and about the salt pillars for hours. Mary’s heart pounded in her throat, but she new time played evil tricks, especially when under duress. And this certainly was a situation of duress.

“I thought we were safe from these creatures.”

“Different creatures,” Marshall grunted. “They aren’t making that chittering nose.”

“You’re right, they aren’t. They aren’t making any sound at all.” She gasped and muffled her sob by biting down on her fist.

“Stay alert, and do as I say, we will get through this,” Marshall said.

“When will we get through this. It’s been days.”

“What do you expect? We are on foot and in their territory. The best we can do it avoid them. Right now they don’t seem particularly interested in us.”

He grabbed her hand and began running. With the saurans distracted, maybe they could make it through this section of terrain. Mary stumbled. With a cry she fell to her knees. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Marshall commanded. “You must.”

He hauled her back to her feet. This time she limped along behind him, unable to run. Maybe she should stay behind, let the beasties have her. After all, being eaten alive by nasty little lizards couldn’t be any worse than marrying whomever her grandfather had lined up for her.


Suddenly, an ominous shadow fell across them, casting the area into darkness. Marshall looked up, his hand went to his hip. He wished he had his revolver, but it was lost with the rest of their belongings when they had to jump from the derailed train.

“What is that contrivance?”

“I think he’s flying, but I don’t know how.”

“By jove! It can’t be. Miss Mary Dryer, whatever are you doing out here in Kansas?”

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Who could have discovered Mary out in the wilds of Kansas?
And how are they flying?  Tune in next time…

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An Improper Derailment: Chapter 27

Where Mary refuses to allow them to go hungry…
Copy of ch 27
Catch up with Chapter 26…

Start the series from the beginning…

“Is that one edible?” Mary mumbled to herself. She tried to remember what local fauna was edible.

She gathered what few berries she could find. And there were prickly cactus that she seemed to recall from her studies that could be eaten.

She had remembered that cactus contained water, and right now, that was probably more pressing than actual food.

There were old nests and other signs of small creatures that lived among the barren stone pillars that formed the canyons she currently explored.

After taking care a bit of personal business, she had immediately returned to where Marshall lay sleeping. He was exactly where she had left him, safe as houses. And she hadn’t gotten lost.

Feeling confident with a successful first expedition, she ventured forth in an attempt to find some form of sustenance. They hadn’t had time on the ability to forage for a breakfast this morning. Marshall had emphasized the need to be clear of the carnivorous sauran territory above all else.

Mary wasn’t sure which need of her body was greater at the moment, the need for sleep, or food.

Her stomach grumbled with an unladylike sound that reverberated through the air.

“Fine, I guess it’s food.”

She located a nest that looked like it wasn’t completely abandoned and set up a snare. She hoped for a rabbit, but at this point, she wouldn’t say no to something more unsavory such as a vole of some type. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

With disappointment in her personal fortitude, Mary realized she had drifted off as she sat in wait for her snare to catch something. The struggles of a pitifully thin, mostly gnarled skinny legged, bird brought her out of her dreamless sleep with a jolt.

“My, you are pitiful. But if you are my only option, you will have to do.”

The poor thing didn’t look to have enough meat on it for even a taste. With a grimace and girding of her mentality with steel boning as in her corset, Mary did the needful thing, and dispatched the creature.

“If there are birds, then maybe there are eggs.” Eggs were always so much easier to deal with.

She continued her scavenging until she heard her name in the distance.

Without much to show for her time she hurried back toward where she had left Marshall asleep.

“Mary!” She heard him bellow.

“I’m returning post haste!” she called back.

“Where are you? Mary?”

“Marshall, stay put or we shall both be lost in this maze.” She could only hope he heard her and listened to her, two very different things she was well aware of.

Marshall’s voice grew more concerned with each call of her name. She picked up her pace as she threaded her way back through the labyrinthine rock formations.

Suddenly she was wrapped in Marshall’s embrace. He held her and breathed heavily.

“I thought you had gotten lost,” he finally admitted before releasing his hold on her.

“I’m right here. I was out looking for food.” She triumphantly held up the scrawny bird she had trapped. “You were so deeply asleep, I thought I’d be back long before you woke.”

“Don’t ever go wandering off like that without telling me first.” His large hands cupped her face, and his eyes searched hers.

“You were asleep. And we need sustenance before we both collapse.”

“I could have gone out hunting after I woke up.” He scooped the bird she hand dangling from her grasp. “It this supposed to be food?”

“It has more meat on it than any of the little field mice out there. It was the best I could do.” She didn’t fold under his scrutiny, something she was proud of. She had done a good job and she knew it.

“Oh, I also found these. I’m not sure which of anything is edible.”

She opened the front of her skirt wide. She had gathered it into a giant pocket to carry the various cactus and berries she had found.

Marshall reached into the collection of fruits. He began picking the berries and tossing them. “I don’t know what those are, and I don’t eat berries I’m unfamiliar with. Now this”— he held up a piece of cactus she had broken off— “we can eat it, and drink the juice. Some folks make good booze from this juice.”

He broke a few of the spikes off, and put his mouth around the piece and sucked. He let out a contented sigh as he held it out to Mary to try.

She gathered her skirt, still holding more offerings, in one hand and accepted the cactus. She was thirsty, and now that Marshall has taken a drink, she knew it would be safe for her to do so as well.

It was sticky and warm, but it felt good on her throat.

“Let’s see what we can do with this. Well done, Mary. We’ll have a decent lunch with all of this.”

Marshall smiled at her, and suddenly she felt very proud of her self. If not slightly flustered at the sudden attention.

“But, I’m serious. Don’t go wandering off again, you had me worried.”

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Now that they won’t starve to death, what is in store for Mary and Marshall? Tune in next time…


An Improper Derailment: Chapter 26

Where Mary has to keep going no matter how tired she is..

ch 26

Catch up with Chapter 25…

Start the series from the beginning…

Mary stumbled as she crossed the terrain.

Marshall had been quiet, not even chastising her or teasing her about wanting more sleep. He kicked the fire to ensure it had burned itself off and then they were off.

He had wanted to get out of this territory. Yesterday he had wanted to get to it.

Mary tried to understand, but she was so tired, every bone in her body ached. The caves had been safety for the night, but they were not a long term solution to their problem. They were deep in the middle of sauran territory, and apparently not the kinds of megafauna plant eating saurans Mary was familiar with.

“Can we please rest?” she whined.

“We’ve got to keep going. I’m tired too, last night was a long one.”

Marshall didn’t pause or stop. He kept walking. The terrain didn’t change much. It was rocky with intermittent scrub grass. The prairie and its endless miles of tall grass was somehow gone.

How would he know when they were safe? How could he tell if they were beyond the range of the saurans that would eat them for lunch?

Mary trudged, half asleep. She couldn’t keep going. She fell to her knees with a cry.

“I can’t.”

Marshall took the few steps needed to be by her side. He lifted her with relative ease, even though she knew he was tired. He hadn’t slept at all, he had to be more than exhausted.

He pointed some where in the distance. “Let’s make it to there, and then we can rest.”

Mary whimpered and clutched at his jacket. She had to be strong for him, herself, for their survival.

Marshall eased her to her feet. “You can do this, it’s not that far.”

She held to his arm, uncertain if he was supporting her, if if she was supporting him. They reached a row of low dark trees. Mary had assumed they marked the banks of a stream, but there were only more rock formations like a scar in the land.

“We should be safe in here.”

“Marshall, won’t the saurans follow us?”

He shook his head as he slid more than walked down into the formations of eroded rock.

Mary scrambled after him, careful to not fall. When they reached the bottom, Marshall sat. “I think this is a fine place to rest.”

Mary looked up at the edge where the land had given way. She turned and in front of her was a labyrinth of towers of rock.

“Are you sure we’ll be safe here?”

Marshall didn’t answer. When she twisted to look back at him, he had tipped his hat over his face. He was already asleep. That was her answer. If Marshall felt safe enough to sleep, she had to accept they were safe enough.

Curling up by his side to nap with him was a very tempting thought. But she had been traveling with him long enough to know that wasn’t an option. She needed to find them some food. But first, a rest wouldn’t be unreasonable.

Mary perched with her back straight. Good posture helped her to stay awake. Her eyes drifted closed. With a jerk, Mary brought herself back to attention.

“Enough of that.” She stood and brushed off her skirts, more out of habit than actually getting any form of dust or dirt off.

“Right.” She propped her hands on her hips and looked at her surrounding, memorizing the spot exactly, so that she could return to Marshall without getting lost.

Marshall had kept them safe last night, it was her turn to now make sure they survived another day, and that meant water and food.

She looked at her walking stick-slash-emergency cudgel that lay discarded on the ground near Marshall’s sleeping form. She picked it up. No need to go about without any kind of protection.

©2023 Lulu M. Sylvian

Tune in next time to find out if Mary locates food and water.
Chapter 27 coming in March.

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An Improper Derailment: Chapter 25

Where Mary has to survive the night

ID ch 25 web image

Catch up with Chapter 24…

Start the series from the beginning…

Mary never expected to actually miss being in the company of a large sauran, but here she is. She trusts Marshall to keep her safe, but he’s just a man.

The fire snapped and crackled as orange flames danced against the dark sky.

Marshall sat at the opening on the shallow cave poking at the fire, keeping the flames high.

Mary sat curled around herself pressed against the back wall.
The chittering sound that had warned them of sauran activity nearby had faded shortly after sunset.

Mary couldn’t get the sound out of her ears. The lowing of cattle turned terrified. She had no ideas that cows could make such terrified screaming sounds. Or maybe that was the beasts they now stayed vigilant against.

“Go to sleep, Mary.”

“If you’re going to stay awake and keep watch, then I shall as well. I can keep you company.”

“I don’t need company. I need you to be able to watch me while I sleep tomorrow.”

“You plan on sleeping do you?”

Marshall adjusted so that the fire illuminated half of his face. His eyes were on her. He was almost handsome.

“Tomorrow we want to get as far out of this area as possible. Those little saurans are territorial. We get out of their area, they leave us alone. You won’t be any good to me, or yourself if you’re tired. You’re a lady, you aren’t used to—”

“Hah!” Mary cut him off with a sharp laugh. “You admit, I’m a lady.”

“And a thorn in my side. Go to sleep, will ya. I need you to keep up in the morning.”

Mary huffed and squirmed in an attempt to get comfortable enough to rest. She slept in fits and bursts. Marshall’s strong back was always there where her eyelids drifted up, opening for a moment, before returning to unsatisfactory sleep.

Her eyes drifted open, the fire was low, too low. Marshall was gone. She felt instantly awake.

“Marshall?” she called out tentatively.

There was no answer.

She crawled forward. She heard the low rumble of some animal growl. She didn’t know if it was mammal or sauran. The stick Marshall had been tending the fire with lay discarded near where he had been sitting.

She reached out and snatched the stick, quickly cowering back against her shelter wall. Poking at the fire she got the fire blazing once more.

Movement beyond the fire caught her eye. It looked like rippling fur.

She shoved her hands into her mouth to keep from screaming. She could not stifle her whimpers of fear. The fire reflected off a pair of bright eyes, wolf eyes.

Mary poked at the fire again.

The wolf drifted into the dark. The fire’s light reflected dimly on the animal’s fur, letting Mary know it was still out there. She hoped that wherever Marshall was. he knew about the wolf.

It didn’t seem to be leaving her, waiting for a midnight snack she guessed.
At least it was on the other side of the flames, and it was keeping the nasty saurans at bay.

Mary stared at the wolf as it faded in and out. She jerked awake, and poked at the fire. It responded and burned brighter. Her eyes couldn’t focus. She thought she saw Marshall.

The next time she opened her eyes, the fire had died down. Marshall was shaking her, and the sun was up.

“Mary time to wake up, we need to get moving.”

Will they get out of the sauran’s territory in time? Find out in the next episode. January 2023

©2022 Lulu M Sylvian

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Coming December 1st

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 24

Where Mary learns they have to face another danger


Catch up with Chapter 23…

Start the series from the beginning…

When we last left Mary, she had picked up a big stick.
Now she learns she’ll have to use it.

“I’m not going to like what?” Mary demanded.

“Less chatter, more hustle. We need to get to those rocks.” Marshall took a step back to where Mary stood, wrapped his hand around her elbow, and began walking.

His pace dragged her along.

She had to quicken her step to practically a run.

“Marshall, I’m not going to like what?”

“I’ll tell you when we get to higher ground.”

She wrenched her arm out of his gasp.

“I’ll be able to move faster without you manhandling me.” She lifted the front of her skirts and picked up her pace.

“Come along. Whose dawdling now?”

Marshall chuckled and quickened his pace behind her.

“Do you know how to swing that stick of yours?”

“You mean there is an approved method? Don’t I just wave it about?”

“If you have fire on the end of it—”

“You mean a torch?”

“Yes, a torch. If you have a torch you’ll be able to just wave it about. Otherwise you’re gonna want to swing that stick for protection.”

“You intend that I hit things with it?”

“I intend that you protect yourself with it.”

“Against wolves?”

Marshall cleared his throat. “Against saurans.”

“A little stick is going to frighten off a sauran?” In Mary’s mind, and experience, saurans were large lumbering creatures. Kim was very much the size Mary considered average. Her little stick, even if used as a cudgel would have no impact on Kim.

“That little stick can crack a sauran in the head just fine.”

Mary slowed her pace. Her brows knit in consternation. “Hitting a big beast—”

“Not all saurans are big.”

“I’m sorry, what did you just say? Saurans are huge. Big and smelly.”

“And some of them are small and dangerous,” Marshall chuckled.

“When you say small and dangerous, what are we talking about?”

Marshall held up his hand about waist high. “Small, and dangerous. And we look like lunch.”

“So hit like I’m playing that game croquet?”

“What game?”

“Oh you know. Well, maybe you don’t. It’s a very sophisticated lawn game where one whacks a ball through a wicket with a mallet.”

“Smashing balls with hammers? Doesn’t sound all that sophisticated,” Marshall chuckled.

“Not when you phrase it like that. Must you sully every interaction?”

“Must you insist that everything be prim and proper? Life isn’t always so tidy Mary. It’s messy. The sooner you learn and accept that the easier all of this will be.”

Mary dropped her jaw, prepared to say something indignant.

Without warning, Marshall’s hand clamped over her mouth, and he pulled her back into the shadows of the rocks. At least she had learned enough not to fight him whenever he performed such an undignified action.

She closed her mouth, and forced herself to breathe through her nose.

Marshall’s mouth was next to her ear. She could feel his breath as he whispered. “Listen. They are closer. We need shelter, we need fire.”

Mary nodded against his hand. He removed his hand from her mouth, but he didn’t release his hold of her.

Mary wasn’t sure what to do. She felt safe in Marshall’s arms, but she knew they were both in danger.

“I’ll start picking up smaller branches for a fire as we continue. You find us a cave.”

“That’s a good plan, Mary. Smart. And to think when I first met you… never mind. We might just get through this in one piece.”

Find out in the next installment if they get through in one piece.

©2022 Lulu M Sylvian